Program of the Month Q&A: PsyD Student Alaina L. Wilson
“The PsyD program not only teaches us how to help others achieve self-awareness, but also how we can do this ourselves as students and as future clinicians.”
Medaille College doctoral program in clinical psychology (PsyD) student Alaina L. Wilson started down an untraditional path until she discovered that clinical psychology was her true calling and enrolled in the doctoral program at Medaille. Set to graduate with her PsyD degree in 2020, Wilson has learned a great deal about herself personally and professionally during her four years in the program. She gained self-awareness and self-confidence, and discovered that she wants to pursue clinical work specializing in supportive medical therapy and trauma recovery therapy. Crediting the PsyD faculty members and her fellow students for contributing to her growth, she tries to give back to the program and the College community by serving as the PsyD Program Student Association President.
Here, Wilson shares her journey, discusses her experiences in the PsyD program, and articulates what she has learned about the best way to cope with stress and achieve a work/life balance.
What led to your decision to pursue a PsyD degree?
I did not take a traditional path into psychology. Originally, I was on the path towards medical school, getting my bachelor’s in biology, and then I switched to studying to be a physician’s assistant. After 15 months in PA school, combined with a series of life events, I realized that was not the best path for me. Through some personal reflection and the discovery of Medaille’s PsyD program, I realized that as a clinical psychologist, I would still be able to care for people, as I had always wanted, but on a deeper, more personal level.
How has your experience in the PsyD program impacted you personally and professionally?
Over my four years in the program so far, I have learned more about myself personally than ever before. Part of being a clinical psychologist requires being able to have insight into and understanding of oneself. The PsyD program not only teaches us how to help others achieve self-awareness, but also how we can do this ourselves as students and as future clinicians. Considering that I did not always know I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, my experience with the program has reassured me professionally that this field is truly where I belong.
What has been your favorite aspect of the program?
While there are many aspects of the program that I have thoroughly enjoyed, I would have to say that my favorite would be all of the individuals who I have met. Not only do we have a compassionate, supportive core faculty and diverse, knowledgeable adjunct faculty, but the students truly make the PsyD program what it is. I know that personally, I would not be where I am today in the program without the caring support of many students throughout the various classes, especially my cohort members who have become more like family than friends.
What responsibilities do you have serving as PsyD Program Student Association president?
I have served as the PsyD Program Student Government Association president for 2 years now. In this role, I have been responsible for coordinating various events (both academic and social) for our students and faculty, represented the program at campus events (such as the upcoming Take Back The Night), hosted regular meetings to discuss events and any program questions or concerns, served as the voice of the program‘s students, and ultimately worked to foster balance between the rigorousness of the program and being able to take time for faculty and students to coalesce and decompress. Serving as the president has been an honor and a privilege.
What is the best guidance or advice you have received from a PsyD faculty member?
Education can be a challenging process, particularly when working to attain advanced degrees such as a PsyD. Since I did not take the traditional route to becoming a psychologist, there have occasionally been times of self-doubt or questioning. However, the amazing, supportive PsyD faculty members have not only consistently helped to build my confidence by believing in me, but they have also encouraged me to believe in myself, stating that “you have found your niche” and “you are where you are meant to be.” Thanks to them, I fully believe that I was destined to be a clinical psychologist, and I greatly anticipate being able to serve others as a clinician.
What type of clinical work would you like to do after you graduate?
Based on my previous medically oriented education, one of my primary areas of interest for therapy is supportive medical therapy — helping children and their families cope with and adapt to the challenges of chronic illness. As a result of some of my personal experiences, I am also very interested in working with trauma — helping individuals overcome the hardships of their past (be it medical-related or otherwise) in order to lead the lives they wish to lead and become who they have always wanted to be, unhindered by their experiences of the past.
In your professional opinion and from your personal experience juggling several responsibilities at once, what is the best way to cope with stress and achieve a work/life balance?
In addition to my role as a PsyD student and president of the PsyD Program Student Association, I also am a daughter, significant other, friend, expectant mother, dog mom, employee, community volunteer, and president of a charitable organization. I am often told “I don’t know how you do it.” Being able to juggle many responsibilities, while maintaining a work/life balance is certainly a challenge. First, it is important to self-reflect and know oneself; this empowers you to identify your own wants and needs, in addition to those of others, and enables you to recognize when you may need to simply say “no.” From there, it is important to practice good time management and prioritize one’s responsibilities and goals. This allows you to not only cope with, but also help to manage one’s stress level. Finally, don’t forget the importance of being mindful, living in the “here-and-now.” We only get to live each day once, so be sure to take some time every day, even if only a few moments, to “stop and smell the roses.”
Medaille College’s doctoral program in clinical psychology (PsyD) is a full-time, five-year, practitioner-oriented program that prepares a student for a career as a licensed psychologist. The PsyD program requires over 1,000 hours of supervised practicum experience in assessment and therapy, as well as the completion of a clinical dissertation in close consultation with the student’s faculty advisor.
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